Toto Wolff has responded to speculation about Fernando Alonso moving to Mercedes for the 2017 Formula 1 season by saying that officials at the team “have to consider” the Spaniard.
Just five days after winning his maiden F1 title with Mercedes in Abu Dhabi, Nico Rosberg shocked the motorsport world by announcing his immediate retirement from racing.
The news has left Mercedes in need of a driver for 2017, but after boasting the best car on the grid for the past three years, the seat is highly coveted.
Alonso has one year to run on his McLaren contract, but has been linked with the drive for 2017 as he looks to win his first World Championship since 2006.
Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Mercedes executive chairman Wolff said that Alonso had to be considered as a candidate for the seat, but acknowledged that the two-time champion remains under contract.
“You have to consider Fernando,” Wolff said.
“He’s a driver that I respect a lot, and combines the talent, speed, experience – it’s all there.
“But he’s in a contract with McLaren-Honda at the moment. We just need to weigh all the other options up.”
Whoever Mercedes opts to sign for 2017 will partner Lewis Hamilton, who said last week that he would not insist on having number one status at the team.
Wolff said that Mercedes would continue to operate with its equal chances philosophy between its drivers in 2017, regardless of who was signed.
“We will maintain the system like we had,” Wolff said.
“We will always have equal status for all drivers, give them equal opportunity to the best of our ability. I say that, meaning Abu Dhabi…
“I think we owe it to the fans and owe it to ourselves that you can’t have a pecking order straight from the beginning. It’s not what we’d like to see happening.”